By Caspar Ewig
Ghosts, especially at this time of the year, are meant to scare one to death. But ghosts can also be used to save a soldier’s life. And it is upon that idea that Cooperstown’s James (or “Chip,” as he likes to be called) Northrup filed a patent seven years ago that underlies the function of a training system designed to enhance a soldier’s ability to zero in on a moving target. The concept is obvious: If you are going to shoot at something, you better aim at where a target will be, not where it’s been. Even a bullet that travels faster than the eye can follow must take some time between the instant it leaves the barrel of the gun and the time it hits its target. And a moving target (or an enemy combatant) is not going to conveniently stand still in that interim.
While the concept may be disarmingly simple, creating a training system that will teach and perfect a soldier’s ability to put that concept into practice is not. That is where the brainstorm of the inventor takes over. The premise is to create a virtual reality that allows one to see the lead point at which one must aim in order to hit the target. Hence the ghost:
One aims at an image that reflects nothing at the time of pulling the trigger, but that represents the place where the target will be when the bullet finally reaches it.
Northrup has been perfecting and continually updating the computer program that constitutes his virtual and augmented reality simulator and patents. In the words of the patent, it calculates “a target path from a weapon position and a range. A lead is calculated. A phantom target is displayed at the lead. A virtual laser and virtual tracer are provided to assist in target tracking.” A soldier practicing in the virtual world will be able to use that information in the real one.
From Northrup the inventor to Northrup the entrepreneur, the voyage is about to come to fruition in that the U.S. Army has already commissioned two prototype simulators embodying Northrup’s patent. Similarly, he has organized a demonstration from which he expects to obtain a contract from the Marines.
Once actualized, the Cooperstown area can then boast of another innovation along with the Morse Code, assembled as a method of communication in Cherry Valley, and the first human organ transplant, which was performed at Bassett Hospital.